Fewer than 3 days ‘til Christmas and you still need a gift for a foodie in your life. Here are two very different suggestions, one for the baker on your list and one for the highly competent gourmet cook. But you better get a move on. Be sure to read the recipe from Hand Made Baking. There’s a nifty little tip for you.
by Kamran Siddiqi
Photographs © 2014 by Kamran Siddiqi
Kamran Siddiqi is a food writer and photographer. His philosophy is simple and sophisticated, which is reflected in his website, the Sophisticated Gourmet, and evidenced in Hand Made Baking: Recipes to Warm the Heart.
Siddiqi’s recipes are as straight forward as he is. He readily admits having difficulty with Madeleines but kept trying and as he experimented, he developed a similar recipe but named his cookies Maxines to avoid confusion or the expectation of the original.
The chapters are self-explanatory: Rise and Shine, As Easy as 1-2-3, Three O’Clock (cookies), Piece of Cake, and Spread a Little Butter on That! (bagels brioche, challah, etc). The recipes are simple but interesting. There are no sub-recipes per se. The exception comes when the recipe includes a puff pastry (his is 15 minutes with step-by-step photos) or his foolproof pie dough to cradle Meyer lemon curd or maple pecan filling.
I like this book. From the Three O’Clock chapter, these Sparkly Sugar Cookies are just the pick-me-up one might need in the middle of the day. Plus, it comes together so quickly you can make the dough in the morning, refrigerate, and have warm cookies for the children after school.
Sparkly Sugar Cookies
Photograph © 2014 by Kamran Siddiqi
Makes about 36 cookies
Beautifully thin, soft sugar cookies covered in a ring of colored sugar: They’re every child’s—and in my case, inner child’s—dream. There is no need for excessive fuss with these cookies. You put everything into one bowl and mix until a dough ball forms. You can also use a food processor-remember to use the pulse function, as you don’t want to over-mix the cookie dough.
2 1/2 cups/300 g all-purpose flour
3/4 cup/150 g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 cup/225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, roughly cubed
2 tablespoons milk or heavy (whipping) cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup/50 g colored sanding sugar (see Note)
1. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed for about 15 seconds. Add the butter, milk, and vanilla and mix on low speed until a dough ball forms.
2. Roll the dough into two 9-in/23-cm logs on parchment paper or plastic wrap, twisting the ends shut. Refrigerate the logs for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
3. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Unwrap the logs, roll them in the colored sanding sugar, and cut them into 1/2-in-/12-mm-thick rounds. Place the cookies about 2 in/5 cm apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden brown.
5. Allow the cookies to cool for a couple of minutes on the pans before transferring them to a wire rack. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Note: For the pictured cookies, I used vanilla bean paste-I love seeing little flecks of vanilla bean throughout the cookies. If you’re interested in going my route, simply substitute vanilla bean paste one to one for the vanilla extract called for in the recipe.
You can make your own colored sanding sugar if you have food coloring on hand. Use about 1/3 cup/65 g cane sugar, turbinado sugar, Demerara sugar, or plain granulated sugar to make your own. Just divide the sugar into small bowls, add a drop or two of food coloring (or the tiniest dab of gel coloring) to each bowl, mix, and… voila! Colored sanding sugar.
Variation: To change things up a bit, use almond extract instead of vanilla extract. Almond extract is a little more powerful than vanilla extract, so I use only 1 teaspoon of it. Taste the dough after adding the extract, and if you feel it needs more, mix it into the dough in 1/4-teaspoon increments until the flavor is to your liking.
by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns
Photographs © 2014 by Chad Robertson
Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes is a book for a more sophisticated cook or for a person who seriously aspires to be. This book gives us the opportunity to learn how the authors create the food of Bar Tartine and insight to running an efficient professional kitchen. It’s fascinating, if not mind-boggling.
Techniques (Part One: the first 100+ pages) – Co-chefs Balla and Burns reveal how they dry foods, ferment foods, make powders, make spices, making the most of the abundant food of each season and build a larder. Remember, in a restaurant kitchen building the larder happens over the course of a year so plucking a chunk of dried tuna from the drying room for a recipe could be an any day occurrence. It is absorbing and educational. This isn’t a spur of moment idea for a home cook who’d have to plan 60 to 90 days ahead to dry the meat.
But that is the extreme. Drying fruits and veggies, making spices, powders, and cheeses, pickling and brining are done in far less time. The choice of whether to employ these techniques is up to the cook. Numerous ingredients from the techniques section show up in the recipe section. So select a recipe, then decide whether to do as they do at Bar Tartine (perhaps having to postpone the dish for three weeks while the carrots or beets are brining) or make a substitution. (Time permitting, I’d go all in).
Part Two is 250 pages of recipes strongly influenced by their interesting heritage. A confluence of 11 cultures is the basis for (primarily) soups and salads: Hungarian, eastern European Jewish, Japanese, Irish, Polish, German plus four more. Think soups like Chilled Sour Cherry or Warm Beet Soup with Smoked Brisket & Brussels Kraut and Tomato & Pickled Green Bean Salad with Whipped Feta. The bulk of the recipes are shared plates like Steamed Celery Root Cake and Sunchoke Custard with Sunflower Greens. The photos are inviting and, as you’ll see in the recipe below, many times the recipe presents options. In this example, if you don’t want to sprout your own chickpeas, just use canned.
The book is complex and brings a level of respect to what is done at Bar Tartine every day of the week.
Cauliflower Salad with Yogurt & Chickpeas
In early autumn, when the first cauliflowers arrive at the market and summer cucumbers are still abundant, we put this salad on the menu. Those few weeks when one season straddles another are a time of movement and change, and our minds itch as we’re pulled in different directions. This is a salad based on textures- the dense cauliflower, the crunchy sprouted chickpeas- so whichever way we choose to go, we still hold on to that as the core of this dish.
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup/240 ml strained or Greek yogurt
5 tablespoons/75 ml unfiltered sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fermented honey, or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 medium, Persian or Japanese cucumbers, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
One 12-ounce head of cauliflower, trimmed into tiny florets
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1/4-inch/6-mm rounds
1 cup/625 g drained cooked chickpeas, or 1 cup/200 g chickpeas, sprouted
8 ounces/225 g button mushrooms, stems trimmed and quartered
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 or 2 green serrano chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup/35 g sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
Leaves from 1/2 bunch each fresh dill, flat-leaf parsley, and tarragon, chopped
Sweet paprika, to serve
To make the yogurt dressing
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sunflower oil, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper to taste. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
2. Add the cucumbers to the bowl with the dressing along with the cauliflower, green onion, chickpeas, mushrooms, radishes, serrano(s), sunflower seeds, dill, parsley, and tarragon and let stand for 15 minutes. Toss all of the ingredients with the dressing and let stand until the vegetables begin to give off some liquid and the cauliflower begins to take on a silky texture, about 15 minutes longer. The salad should be slightly soupy.
3. Transfer the salad to a serving platter, garnish with the paprika, and serve. Leftover salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.